THERE is to be more transparency in decisions made about the preservation of trees.
At a meeting of Adur and Worthing councils’ joint planning committee at the Civic Centre in Ham Road, Shoreham, last Tuesday, members agreed with officers’ recommendations that clearer guidelines should be produced for assessing the “amenity value” of trees.
They also supported the recommendation that an amenity value checklist needed to be used in every case to make future assessments more “transparent” and that ward councillors should be advised “at the point of service” when a tree protection order (TPO) was served.
A report into the issue of tree preservation was discussed at the last committee meeting, in January, but guideline changes were deferred until last week to allow time for further councillor discussion and involvement.
At the meeting, committee members said they were pleased to learn they would be notified about all TPOs from now on, as according to councillor Noel Atkins, this had not always happened in the past.
Councillor Joan Bradley also asked for an amendment to be added to the recommendations; that ward councillors get more training as to how to deal with residents’ queries about TPOs.
Executive head of planning James Appleton said arranging this should not prove be a problem.
However, some councillors did raise concerns, including Steve Waight who picked up on a point in Mr Appleton’s report in which the Tree Advice Trust gave advice and said it was wary about officers evaluating the amenity value of trees and taking into account what residents thought, as they could have “short-term or selfish views about what should be preserved or not”.
He said he found residents actually had a more long-term and pragmatic approach to trees: “Trees don’t magically appear everywhere.
“They are planted by people, usually the residents, so I’m slightly concerned this report has a slightly jaundiced view of the public’s attitude to trees,” he said.
“Since the last meeting, I have had a couple of residents email and write to me saying that every tree is important and should be protected.
“I believe in the past officers have made decisions based on their own views, rather than those of the council and the public.”
However, Mr Appleton said he believed the increased member involvement “would help to give a more balanced view” in any assessments of trees.